The Tories’ disastrous handling of health & social care has led us to this point – Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No


“We are now seeing attempts to attack our right to strike – yet another attack on the movement & on the working class – showing how weak the Tories are.”

Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No

Holly Turner spoke at the Building the Fightback rally on February 1st. You can read an edited version of her speech below.

What a day! I want to start by expressing full solidarity to all workers currently in dispute, and to every single person who took, or supported action today and continues to do so. We stand with you.

My name is Holly and I am an NHS Nurse. I have worked in child and adolescent mental health services since 2012 and work with children with complex needs from age 5. Current waiting times across many CAMHS Services are reaching up to 24 months – this is a disgrace, it is unsafe and it is catastrophic for young children and their families in crisis.

Prior to this, I worked in the London Borough of Hounslow with adults with Learning Disabilities and I mention this as really, I was in the eye of the storm in this role when the Tory welfare reforms were introduced. This was really my first experience of watching the impact of tory cuts and reform on peoples health outcomes. Day centres were closed, social care was decimated, vulnerable adults with severe disabilities became increasingly isolated, and their physical and emotional health suffered as a result. I remember the horror of visiting a man at home who hadn’t had contact with anyone for weeks, he was laying in bed wearing multiple layers as his power had been cut off, as his benefits had been sanctioned, and he was attempting to heat his home with one ring of a camping stove. And I mention this story as at the time I felt so horrified at this degradation of vulnerable people – but now this is common in community practice, we carry food vouchers on every visit and it is now routine to document severe mould is present in children’s homes. No lessons have been learnt. In fact, the assault on the most vulnerable has become worse, levels of health inequality linked to deprivation have increased and services continue to either be slashed or tendered out to private providers.

It is no wonder that increasing numbers of NHS workers are mobilising and demanding the unfolding crisis is addressed. Next Monday the 6th of February we have the biggest NHS Strike in history with both ambulance and nursing staff from the GMB, Unite and the RCN taking action, with more dates planned in February and March.

Our dispute continues as rather than engage with us and negotiate, this government choose to demonise us and tell lies around who is to blame for excess deaths, and the life and limb cover which is in place on strike days. It is over a decade of this Governments disastrous handling of health and social care which have led us to this point and the government appear to be ignoring the seriousness of the situation. Recent reports evidenced that there are now 500 excess deaths a day across the health service, this is just a horrific figure and could be any one of us or our families. This is why we are asking everyone to take to the streets on Saturday 11th March for a National NHS Demonstration in Central London, our fight is your fight.

Today has been an incredible show of strength across the movement and the Tories are backed up against the wall, but we need to continue to escalate it. We must be prepared for a snap election and that means an opposition that fully backs workers rights and supports the strikes – which are currently the only form of leverage we have left against this excuse of a government.

We are now seeing attempts to attack our right to strike – yet another attack on the movement and on the working class – attempting to stop us being organised whilst showing how weak the Tories are. The Government’s new legislation will add further restrictions on the right to strike across all sectors and the minimal service levels bill highlights this governments lack of response and failure to meet the needs of working people. Striking is our right, strikes across essential services already have plans in place for emergency cover which have been negotiated and agreed with employers. Under new proposals, even if we vote for industrial action, we could be forced to either cross picket lines or be sacked. We say that minimum staffing levels are not even met on non-strike days and the government should be focusing on fixing the problems which they have caused, rather than attempting to restrict our rights! If this legislation goes through, we need to be ready to respond, and fast, in the form of a general strike which could force the Tories out altogether.

This unapologetic corruption from this government clearly sees no bound – the increase in privatisation of essential services means they are stealing tax paying money to pass to their mates. The failure to properly tax the rich has left working people paying for essential services whilst the wealthiest continue to make money from our suffering. We refuse to accept this abuse which is unsustainable and needs to end. The fightback has begun and this really is the fight of our lives, and we cannot slow down or let this government see any weakness across the movement. Use every opportunity to organise, engage with your community, local groups and also national movements who are leading the fight back. Join a trade union and don’t just join, become active and keep building.

Finally, please continue to support Arise who hold important events such as this, bringing so many people together. Please join our pickets on Monday, join the national NHS Demo on 11th March and keep going, together we can win.

  • Building the Fightback in 2023″ took place on February 1st, 2023 and was hosted by Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas. You can watch the rally in full here.
  • Holly Turner is the founder of NHS Workers Say No and a mental health nurse. You can follow her on Twitter here; and NHS Workers Say No on Facebook, Instagram and twitter.
  • You can find details about the demonstration for the NHS on Saturday March 11 here.
WATCH: Building the fightback in 2023 – hosted by Arise Festival on February 1st, 2023.
Featured image: Holly Turner, NHS Workers Say No, holds a placards saying nurses and doctors support RMT strikes. Photo credit NHS Workers Say No

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